What if you could take a year off from work to travel on your savings? Think its impossible, think again. At 41 years old, Stephanie Perry quit her job as a hospital pharmacy technician to take a one-year trip around the world. During her adult gap year, she traveled to 12 countries in 12 months, spending $1,200 per month. Now she house sits and shows Black women how to take a career break on a budget. Stephanie Perry champions taking extended time off work to travel and believes in pursuing your personal goals while you’re in your prime, not in retirement. In this podcast episode, Stephanie reminds us that we’re never too old to take a gap year, and it’s possible to see the world for less than what it costs to stay home.
In this podcast episode with Stephanie Perry, we cover:
- Why Stephanie decided to take a year off to travel the world.
- How she planned her grown up gap year.
- How she saved $14,000 in 15 months for her adult gap year.
- Tips for keeping track of your daily travel budget.
- How to find short-term rentals and lodging options for long-term travel.
Listen to the podcast episode here:
Danielle Desir Corbett: Welcome to The Thought Card, a podcast about travel and money where planning saving and creativity leads to affording travel building wealth and paying off debt. We are financially savvy travelers. When Stephanie was 41, she quit her pharmacy technician job to travel the world for a year on her savings. She visited 12 countries in 12 months where she bathed elephants in Thailand and volunteered on an organic cricket farm in Cambodia, which is so cool. Now she's a year round house sitter who shows other women how to take a career break on a budget. Welcome Stephanie.
Stephanie Perry: Thank you Danielle. I'm so excited to be here. I'm so excited. I've been like stalking you on twitter for so long and during the podcasting break, I was like, I really need to have her on the show so that we can talk all things because in your story there's also a lot of like money involved. You pretty much spent a year traveling on your savings. So I'd love to start off the conversation with like at 41 why did, why was that the time that you decided to quit your job and travel the year and take a grown-up gap year. I had a lot of things happened to me at the same time that were like just telling me this is the perfect time to do it. So I went on a vacation for my 40th birthday, I went to brazil, it was the World Cup, I was just there like, I'm not a soccer fan or anything and everybody was like, why are you only here for five days, This is brazil, it's amazing why are you just here for five days? And I was like what are you guys doing? And I met some younger people, you know, not 41 year olds who worked, quit their jobs traveled and then when they ran out of money just went back to work, I worked as a hospital pharmacy technician. I'm certified nationally. I'm trained by the U. S. Army. I can get a job at the drop of a hat. So I was like, you know what I do that too. All of a sudden I knew that like this is something that I want to do. I'm tired of asking my job for vacation. I asked for a week of vacation. They approved me for three days. I have to find someone to cover me for the other two days or I have to call in sick and taking occurrence. Um So part of it was just the frustration with being limited and travel and part of it was not wanting to wait until retirement. My mom had just retired. We took a nice vacation to southern California. But um and they're healthy. My parents are healthy but you know, they just couldn't do everything, you know, they, their bodies limited what they could do, you know, and their, you know, their 70 year old, 60 66 68 year old bodies were telling them, uh, you know, we're only going to do so much today and then it's over. So I just was like, you know what, I feel like waiting to put this off until 65 or 71 whenever I would be like officially retired would be a big mistake. It would be something that I I would regret later on and I just didn't want to keep dreaming about it. I wanted to actually put a plan into place. Once I got the plan into place, it fell into place even faster than I would have expected. But it just was something that I didn't want to have to say, well I wish I had done this when I was younger, which is something I still hear from a lot of people. I wish I had done it.
Danielle Desir Corbett: Yeah. One of the things that there's two things that actually resonate with me and number one is that I've actually had a couple of uncles who passed away recently in their mid to late sixties and they literally just retired a couple of years ago and it's just like we're waiting for retirement age, which is actually fabricated. You know, it's not like it's a, it's a fabricated age and we're waiting for this age to retire and it's not guaranteed that we'll be able to have one wonderful retirement, have a long life. So I love the fact that you mentioned that okay if I can do it now do it now. The other thing that resonated with me also was about job security. Can you talk a little bit more about like the importance of job security and knowing the fact that you know that okay, I can get a job at a job of a hat. Like how how does that make you feel and how that help you to push you to make this big decision?
Stephanie Perry: It was a big factor at the time now today because I don't work as a pharmacy technician, it's not that big of a deal to me, but at the time I don't know that I would have been able to, I would have still wanted to do it, but it would have been harder to convince the other people in my life, it helped my family and my friends say, okay, so you're not just totally jumping off the deep end here. And I also think that like a lot of people have really good jobs and they feel comfortable in their jobs and there there's a little bit of fear like, oh my God, I can't find this again. Like even when I talk to like my family, like they're always just like if you leave, you don't know what's on the other side. I'm just like, come on, that's like living in fear. So I love, I love, I love that idea of knowing and being secure that okay, I can find another job, and also in this economy, you can create you can create your own wealth, which is, which is something we can talk about a little bit later, which is really, really cool. Now, can you talk to us a little bit about like you had, you went to brazil, you had this plan, you're like, okay, I'm going to take some time off and travel. What was it like when you were interacting with family and telling your family about this? Were they on board? Was there pushback?
Stephanie Perry: My family values my family, you know, it's probably pretty much everybody who's listening, your family thinks the same thing is success. You go to school, you go to graduate school, you buy a house, you get married and your life is successful. And so when you want to do something that's a little bit different from that, you have to either convince them or just let them see as you're going along that, hey, you know, there's another way. So my family, my actually, my dad was more on board in the very beginning, he was like, okay, whatever do what you want. But my mom was convinced that this was the worst decision ever. And what about this? And what about that? And, And then he, she convinced my dad that this was not a good decision, remember I was 41, like, I hadn't lived at home and I don't know more than 20 years, but still it was a big deal to them. Um, and I'm looking back now, I can kind of see it at the time. I was like guys why do you even care? Like not why do you care? But what does it really matter? It was difficult to convince them while I was planning but once I left and they could see through my eyes what was happening. You know they could see my pictures in Thailand and Cambodia and the Philippines. I mean it was like immediately all the, not all of the fear but the a good portion of the fear was just gone. I felt like if I had tried to wait and convince people I would still be waiting.
Danielle Desir Corbett: No, I love that, I love that. And you mentioned money. So let's go in and talk money. So how did you see? Save up for this year? Long trip number one, did you know it was going to be a year long trip? Is that like your time frame?
Stephanie Perry: I knew that I wanted to take a year. I don't remember why I picked a year. I think it was just, I hadn't heard the term gap year for students. And so I knew you know a year was a decent amount of time. Um And I had just a handful of places that I definitely wanted to visit even if I didn't get anywhere else. And so I felt like a year was a good amount of time. I started out just researching um online. What does it cost to, what does, what does it cost to get an Airbnb or a hostel in this place for a week or for a month. No um bol dot com is one of my favorite sites as a site where you can lose hours of time. So go there at your own risk. But you just go to it and put in any city and you can compare prices from 11 city to the next. What does a cup of coffee cost? How much does you know a taxi ride or ride on the public transportation cost? And in the travel blogger space, you know that there's a lot of talk about the $40 a day trip. $40 a day is a pretty standard budget for budget, long-term travel.
Danielle Desir Corbett: But like where does that $40 a day come from. Does that include like transportation and accommodation? Or is that just for food and activities?
Stephanie Perry: So for me the $40 a day was accommodation. Uh daily transportation, it didn't include my flight over to Asia because I had already paid for that before I even quit the job. So but so this was everything that I needed after I got into Southeast Asia. So food for the day. So my accommodation average $16 per day. Um so of course I did that by staying places longer term you know where you can get a long-term discount um staying in dorm rooms and hostels which is really easy even at 41, it was no big deal. And by doing some volunteer work in exchange for free room and board. Um so the $16 a day on accommodation around $10 a day on food, which sounds like I was starving myself. But believe me please, I did not. But in Southeast Asia it's just really inexpensive to eat. I think my fun time budget was the rest. Right? So that was transportation for the day. Any activities that I wanted to do if I needed to take a bus to the next town, any of that came from the rest?
Danielle Desir Corbett: That's fantastic. Okay, so that is a gem and something that I had never heard of before. So $4 a day as a long term travel budget. I think that sounds really good, especially if you're going to be going to cheaper travel destinations. But I wanted to backtrack a little bit more in terms of the planning stage of this process. So okay, you went to numb video, you were doing research, You figured out $4 a day was like that target number. Did you have spreadsheets? Did you have a separate bank account that you were using? Like walk us through the strategy behind actually putting all this research into motion. I did it with a white board and a marker. So I knew that I needed the money and so I figured out the $14,400 was my target goal. So I just came up with some categories where I thought that I could come up with this money. Part of it was working overtime selling stuff around the house. Originally my plan was to get a renter in my extra bedroom, which I never did. But it was part of the plan cooking my own food because I said I knew from, I had spent the previous year paying off credit card debt. I paid off about $8000 in credit card debt before I got started working on this plan. And so I knew beforehand how much I was spending on things on food and you know, and so I just came up with these categories where I was going to come up with this money and it was just a white board with a magic with a marker, a dry erase marker and and and a separate bank account and any time I had a chunk of money to put in the bank account I just put it on the board and moved it into the account. It was really low, low tech. Right. Right. Right. So in terms of your savings strategy, did you save like as soon as you got your check or did you wait until all of your expenses were paid for that time period and then you saved. I knew my expenses were fixed. So I knew where everything was gonna go even before I got the check. I knew where every dollar was gonna go. Including my savings. That I made the savings a plan. It was a priority. Absolutely. I even cut out like direct tv. This was 2014 when I was planning and I cut out to direct T. V. And cut out a lot of extra stuff. So I knew exactly how much I was going to have to save and how much I was gonna have to make in addition. So I did a lot of overtime. A good chunk of my um trip was just paid for by working overtime hours. But I knew before that money hit my bank account before my dear the deposit was in my account. I knew where every dollar was gonna go. I knew which buck it it needed to go in. Is this gonna go and living expenses or is this gonna go into trip money and any time I had to make a money decision I knew that this $40 a day was my goal and so I knew that like if it's time for me to go out to eat with friends, am I gonna go, is it gonna call Cost me $40 that's a full day of travel. If I take if I go out to eat with them today I have to come back to work one day early and that's how I would work it out. Yeah I love that. I love that that actually makes it so much more tangible. You're like do I want to have a day of travel or do I wanna you know prolong this amazing trip that I have in store for me. You know and I think in terms of when you're like living your day to day life in the United States I would say especially like I feel like it's so easy to spend money on just like just random things. So having it tied to a goal is just a great way to keep you motivated and like makes you think about like what do I really want in my life and and how will that money follow and flow from that?
Danielle Desir Corbett: That's really really great. Yeah. Yeah. I was just gonna say yeah once you know once you have that goal you're right it does make it so much easier. You can, you can break it down into small chunks and not feel like you have to either go all in or all out. You know you can say you know this is where I'm negotiating, this is where I'm willing to be more flexible with money and this is where I'm willing to make some different choices. Right? Right Right so originally your thought was to go to Thailand how did you pick the other destinations that you wanted to go to and which ones did you go? So instagram was hugely helpful in planning my trip basically. I just saw places that people were going and I was like oh I also wanna go here once you get to a region like so southeast asia or central America or even you know they're inexpensive parts of europe. Once you get there there's a pretty well worn backpacker trail. You know path people go from this town to this town to this town. So I just decided which places I did want to go, which places I didn't want to go. And a lot of it was after I already got into the country, you know, so once I got into Thailand I got to pocket which is a beach south east southeast Thailand and once I got there, you know I knew people were going to this beach and some people were going to this island and you know look it up on instagram seriously and do I want to take my time and go to this island or do I want to skip it? A lot of my trip planning was done after the fact a lot of the trip planning that I actually did was done after the, after the fact I only had, I think I knew I wanted to hit all 12 countries but I probably only had two or three cities or towns in each country that I wanted to visit and in most countries I probably visited more like 12 um just by being free and open and listening to other people listening to other people's advice other travelers and definitely the locals, if I'm staying in a hostel or staying in an Airbnb or guesthouse, they always gave me great information about places I wanted to go visit. Places you don't necessarily need to go visit. You can just, you know, skip past this place. So it was really good to be open with it if you're more of a planner and I know that sounds really scary to some people and you just ask me about spreadsheets. So I'm gonna assume that you will not be too open to not having a real travel itinerary. Um it's easy to just find where people are going in a country by looking up, you know, travel, travel Thailand, right? And you'll see the most popular cities and towns that people are beaches, even that people are visiting and then just pick and choose from there where you think you can find good accommodation and where you feel like you can spend a couple of days and not, you know, get too bored or you know, hate it. Yeah, I mean, I think I would definitely be a spreadsheet person to start off. I feel like I would just be clinging to it in the beginning and then I'll be like, okay, let's calm down, let's relax, let's, you know, you know, give a little bit of space because it's nice to have space for a spontaneity and like you said, you talk to someone, you get inspired, you're like, oh okay, great. Let me add this little list. But if you're like set on sandstone, it's really hard to, to make those adjustments.
Danielle Desir Corbett: Now there's two interesting things that you talked about. It made me think about is that I've heard that transportation actually be ends up being one of the most expensive things in a long term travel budget from you know, place to place to place. Did you find that to be true? Transportation and accommodation.
Stephanie Perry: Transportation can be done very cheaply if you are willing to take your time to get to a place. I have, I have taken 16 hour ferries where you just get on a boat with, with like an entire, the bottom of the boat is just bunk beds after bunk bed And you know, take the ferry to get to the place and it probably cost me less than $10 as opposed to taking a flight which would have cost me maybe $60 or $70. You know, it sounds like a bad decision but when you have a year to travel and really no place to actually be at any particular time, take taking the slowest, most inexpensive route can save you a lot of money. Yes, transportation can be very expensive or can be a big portion of the budget but you can also whittle that down by moving less often moved from place to place less often I've stayed in during the year, I stayed one month in Chiang mai Thailand in the same apartment and I stayed one month in hoi an Vietnam in the same guesthouse. So moving less often and moving slowly and inexpensively can really help now in terms of your budget when you're actually traveling, did you have like a notebook that you were keeping track of? Like how did you keep track of that? And is was there like some anxiety around that? Like okay, I only have this much for this month and are you tracking it meticulously. I did track for the first two months because I've never traveled like this before before. This my like I said my vacations were five days, you know like $1000 and you know done. And so I did need to track every dollar for the first couple of months. Once I got the hang of things, you know, you can just kind of had a feel for what I was spending after that. But for those first two months I wrote it down in a notebook every day. Everybody I was, I started in Thailand and everybody that I spent whether it was on some mango sticky rice, which I love to eat or or to pay for my place to stay or whatever it was get on the day tour, you know go on the day tour wrote it all down and it was, it was reassuring to know that oh yeah, so it is working this, this budget of $1200 a month is enough. And um and then I had a couple of um like backup plans. So working or volunteering in exchange for free room and board was my backup plan. So if money ever got tight I would just find someplace on work away to volunteer and they would take me in and feed me until I was ready to get back out there and start spending more money. Yeah. I think the important thing in terms of mindset is that when we go on vacation, it's a very different because we spend, I think most people spend a significant amount of money when they go on vacation for a couple of days. It's a different kind to spend when you're traveling long term. So for those who haven't traveled for long term, can you explain the difference between vacation spending and long term travel spending. You have to, with long term travel spending, you need to, you you need to stick to that budget if you're on a vacation and you go over budget, you go back home and go back to work and pay it back, you know or whatever. But when you're traveling long term, if you're out, if your budget, when when you go over budget it's just like a snowball effect and your trip is over basically. So and and small things do pop up. You know I had to buy a phone, I drowned my phone when I was in Thailand and had to buy a phone in the Philippines and so things do pop up. So it's the contingency plan isn't just, oh, I just put it on my credit card like it would have been, you know, in my, in my old days. So yes, you have to be more careful about things. But you also, it's also like I said, easier to get into the groove of it when you're on a shorter vacation for me anyway. I was just like, I'm spending, you know, I only get, you know, a couple weeks vacation, a year, I'm spending this money, but in um, on long term travel, especially when you're on a really tight budget, you have to be more budget conscious and you know, pace yourself. Yeah, because every dollar spent is a dollar that you have to go back home earlier. You know, like it's, it's, it's a, there's a real consequence to your spending. But I'm sure that even with having a budget, you are still able to live and see a lot of different things. Um So that's wonderful. And can you explain the difference between like your budget when you're in an expensive country versus when you're in a cheaper country. Sure. So I went to Australia, there was a flight that popped up. I was, you know, because I was in Asia already a flight popped up to Australia and I was like, okay, I'm gonna go, it wasn't really in my plan, but the heat in Southeast Asia started to get to me. The heat and humidity in cambodia. I was like, I can't no more, no more. And it was winter time in Australia, summertime for us. So I went down to Australia. It's a super expensive place. I can't even everything, just all the prices just made me want to cry, I don't know how people live there. So I got, I got free room and board. I volunteered with the family, gave me free room and board and they gave me their car to use and my job was to take care of their kids and like my job was to get their kids up, feed them breakfast, pack their lunches, drive the car pool and then pick them up from school at the end of the day. And so I just had to make a new negotiation, right? So everything with money is just a negotiation. So instead of, you know, hanging out by a beach in bali I decided to go to this more expensive country. And so every had to look at every money decision with a different land. So this isn't, There's no way in Australia that $16 a day is gonna give you accommodation, there's no way you're going to eat on $10 a day. So I just had to find a different way to work it out now. I also went to Paris with my cousin, my cousin met me in Paris for a few days and we stayed in hostels still and ate in restaurants and had had a lot of fun, but it was definitely not on $40 a day. I think I probably spent $50 just on my bed in the dorm room in the hostel. So, but I knew that this was coming and I knew that I had already made some made enough adjustments previously in the budget to make sure that I could fit this kind of thing in. Yeah, so the big takeaway here is you need a budget and sticking to it helps to, you know, have your original plan intact. But if there are places that you want to go that's outside of your budget know that it will definitely have an impact and you'll have to make those tough decisions.
Danielle Desir Corbett: So I think that's really insightful and helpful. Now, one of the things Stephanie that I know that you talk a lot about on your channels is accommodation. So during this one year, your one year growing up, gap year, what were some of the accommodations that you stayed at and how did you find them? I feel like I did it all during that year stuff, I never would have thought that I would have done. So I stayed in regular hotels, um I stayed in for New Year's Eve. I stayed in a really nice hotel in the Philippines, manila in the Philippines and they had like a fire fireworks show, I can see the fireworks from the window. I stayed in lots of hostels. I stayed when I stay in hostels, I stay in the dorm room. I don't usually get a private room. Um There are a lot of hostels today that are capsule, you know, like have capsule beds. So you have like a semblance of privacy or, and, and a lot of them just have a curtain around the bed. So you have, you know, so you can at least close everyone out even if you can still hear them. Um I stayed in Airbnb s in people's homes were just rented a room from them while they were still there, which, which I can see a lot of people were saying no, I would never do that. But they were some of my best experiences because you have a person, a local right there who is helpful and happy to have you in their home and they want to show you around, they want to give you good food, they want to tell you what's so great about their town or their city. Um And then I stayed in um guesthouses where you can rent a room for like an entire month. So I did did that. Originally I thought that I would know before I got to a place where I would want to stay. But as I was traveling, I found out that it was really better to get to a town, have a place to stay just for a couple of nights and then if I want to stay for two weeks or for a month get be on the ground, be already in that place and then find a place to stay. It's much more budget friendly, it's much more easier. It's much much easier and cheaper if you're already there to negotiate a lower price for a longer term stay. So I've done it all from dorm beds to full on apartments and all of it on like I said on that super tight budget right now when you're looking at these apartments you're not looking at like the, I'm thinking of like New York City they have like all these city websites look for apartments or are you looking at, are there different sites that you look at where it's for long term travel focus? So like in the place that I did at first was high in Vietnam and I just went there googled apartment and and then sorted by who would let me rent for only one month as opposed to 12 months. You can also just ask once you get places, you know sometimes you can just walk around and find a sign in a window. Seriously find a neighborhood that you like and find a for rent sign in the window. But even if you're looking online it's just a regular search. I would recommend staying away from something like craigslist which is very american centric because they're going to price their place for american travelers and for you know american tourists, you want to pay a little more local type of money and so you need to ask around once you get to a place and find what they use locally to rent apartments. Even if you just need to use google translate because I have no idea what what the site said. All I know is I can see the pictures, I can see how much they're charging for a month and I can just ask them can I can I come check it out. I love that because for me as like you know someone who just travels for vacation I would think that okay I have to have this lease and it has to be like this big ordeal but I love that you said you know stay there for a couple of days like you know scope out the place, figure out where you're gonna live long term and when you get there on the land then you could start to do your search, talk to people and you're not not really stressed because you already have a place to stay.
Danielle Desir Corbett: So I really like that. And then again thinking about cost savings like it sounds like when you're when you're there you can negotiate and in person and it's like do you want the cash now like I'm here, you know, so that's a very powerful, powerful, powerful tip. So thank you for that. That's really, really helpful. Now one of the questions that we had in the facebook community, financial savvy travelers was health insurance. So how does that work when you're traveling? Long term?
Stephanie Perry: This is a great question. It's something that people always ask me and I didn't know I only knew about. I only cared about health insurance honestly, because other people told me I had to care about it. So I'm glad that other people are thinking about it more proactively. There are health insurance plans for people who are traveling long term. Um, there I'm gonna give you two companies that I know of Alliance A. L. L. I. A. N. Z. And world nomads seem to be the most popular from my limited research. Um, but there are insurance companies that will cover you while you're traveling. The a couple of important things to remember are that you are probably going to be in a place where health care is very inexpensive out of pocket. So what you want to make sure that you're covered for is the expensive stuff hospital stays and in case you need to be evacuated back either to your country or just to another place medically evacuated. You need to make sure that you do have insurance to cover those things. As far as regular everyday health care stuff. It may be very inexpensive and even free to just get health care where you are, there are a handful of countries where universal healthcare covers tourists. Panama actually has an insurance that you get for free when you well, I don't want to say for free because it was free. But I don't know. It may change, but Panama has insurance for tourists when you get there, when you get into the airport, you sign up, you sign paperwork and you are insured while you're in their country. And so being um americans were so used to how expensive health care is and how difficult it is to be ensured. But in a lot of the world you can get covered through a policy like world nomads or through alliance and through the country's national health care coverage. Um I actually got leishmaniasis which is a skin infection, it's ugly, so don't google it, it's gross. I got leishmaniasis from some bugs on a beach in the Philippines and I went to the hospital, they saw me treated me, gave me medication to take home and it was less than 30 something dollars and we're talking probably something that would have cost me four or $5,000 in the US if I was uninsured. So remember that the rest of the world, a lot of the rest of the world has really, really inexpensive but good health care. There are people who travel medical tourists who travel to other countries just to get the health care in these other countries. So remember that you're probably going to be able to afford it out of pocket if it's something simple if you're in an inexpensive country. So I'm glad that people are asking this question. Get the insurer and also remember that you'll probably be able to pay out of pocket for small stuff that pops up. Right? So in terms of long term travel, did you get any like shots before you go? Did you like check in with the doctor? Is there like checklist that you use for that kind of things for each country that I wanted to go to. I checked with the C. D. C. And those countries entry requirements. So you have to check with your the different countries have different entry requirements. Which is part of the reason that I didn't get to East Africa during my trip. I really wanted to hit um kenya and Tanzania and I didn't because I didn't have the yellow fever vaccine. So check. So I didn't go anywhere that required any vaccine that I didn't already have. I worked in health care and I was in the army when I was younger and so I didn't need any new shots for any place. Um Any I didn't need any new vaccines but that's something that's very important to look into because there are countries that will turn you away. Yellow fever is probably the most common vaccine that people have and don't people need and don't have and then get rejected when they try to fly in and don't find out until they get to the airport. So you you need to check what that country requires and you also need to check what the CDC recommends.
Danielle Desir Corbett: Great, great, great. So so far we talked about planning for this trip, saving for this trip, accommodation options and also like health care insurance and vaccines. So another question that from the facebook community was revenue. So during this year long trip, did you have any income coming in or were you live Solely on your savings?
Stephanie Perry: During that year? I made $0. If I if I was gonna do that that year over again I would have done things a little differently. But at the time I made $0 and I was fine with it. So I went and I so I survived only on my savings for that period of time. What happened was when I came back and got rehired and came back to work. I decided that you know what this life is not for me anymore. I no longer am Stephanie Perry pharmacy technician. I am now Stephanie Perry who travels full time. So then I started freelance writing and travel blogging and making money online. But I didn't start while I was on the gap year. The gap year was strictly about R and R. It was strictly about rest and relaxation taking selfies on the beach and watching the sunset and hanging out with elephants and you know, it was strictly about fun. But now that I've moved into a different type of travel, I do have a couple of different small sources of income, you know, and that I'm working on building. That's great, That's great.
Danielle Desir Corbett: This is a great transition because now it's like okay after your gap or you had a wonderful time, you come back to work and you get your job back and you're like, this isn't for me, how did you transition to this next chapter of your life where you do a lot of house sitting and you're, would you say that your dramatic as well? Yes, I would, I just started asking around on the internet what people were doing your group, your group didn't exist then, but if your group existed, I would have gone to financially savvy travelers and said, hey please help me, how do you all do it? But I just asked people who were traveling full time what they were doing. I met enough people on the road who were travel bloggers, believe it or not freelance writers. I met a lot of people who were tutors in english online, which is another very popular way to make money. It's a very popular thing for um long term travelers. And so people are, you know, just sharing, this is what I do. I met a lot of web designers and graphic designers and just people who have a portable skill a skill where you can just do it with a laptop and good internet access. And then I just took inventory of what my skills were and started my freelance writing shop from there. Then I also needed to make sure that I didn't need to work 40 50 60 hours a week because that is no longer in my in my lexicon. So I wanted to make sure that I could find a way to keep expenses low and that's how I started house sitting. There was just a blogger who mentioned that she was a house sitter and next thing you know I was a house sitter. So now I get free accommodation and sometimes a little bit of money by taking care of people's homes and their pets while they travel. So it's a good exchange and it means that I get to travel on a very low budget and I don't have to work like a crazy person. Yeah. So for those who don't aren't really familiar about house sitting, what are some of the resources that you would suggest for like learning about how sitting and actually becoming a house sitter, I got started through trusted house sitters. It's one of its probably the largest house sitting site, trusted house sitters and house carers are very popular sites. How sitting itself is very popular with certain groups of people retirees worldwide who have moved to another country. Um use house sitters very um very often and then they're just people in the world who have a lot more vacation time than the average american who also use a lot of house sitters. So in in um the U. K. House sitting is popular in Australia. House sitting is popular. These are people who get more time to travel and have to be away from their homes and or their pets for more extended periods of time. So if you're interested in house sitting, check out those sites, you'll see that their houses everywhere like everywhere. I make youtube videos all about house sitting. So check me out on youtube and get started. I think the house sitting is my favorite travel hack. I know you had a travel hacking guy on on your podcast not too long ago. House it, he's a points airline points hacker. I feel like I am a house sitting hacker. Like I have hacked accommodation by house sitting. So if someone, let's say like is housing for people who are doing long term travel or can someone who has a full time job and just travel on vacation, can they also utilize that that as a way to hack their travels. You can house it just on your vacation and it's if if you have specific dates and specific places that you want to go, you can set up alerts and get notified when when a house it pops up in your area in the area that you want to go to. So you don't have to be a, you know, hey, I quit my job and I'm traveling the world. You know, you don't have to be that person. You can just be, hey, I'm going on vacation, I'm going to hawaii and I'm gonna house sit at this, you know, place, I'm going to Tuscany, I'm going to Italy and I'm gonna house sit a villa for, you know, one week.
Danielle Desir Corbett: Now, I know that we could dive really deep into house sitting. So followers and listeners of the show, if you want Stephanie back on the show to talk exclusively about how sitting, let me know DM me tag me at the thought card and let me know if you want to have Stephanie back. We could talk all about how sitting. So Stephanie, this was amazing. Yeah, please say yes, because I definitely, definitely, definitely do want you back on the show and I know that you have a house sitting master class. So can you share a little bit more about that with the listeners?
Stephanie Perry: I do. I have a house sitting master class to help you get your first house it booked, right. So you don't feel like you're on your own and you know, how do I navigate the site and how do I make sure you want to make sure that your profile stands out and you want to make sure that you're hitting your, you want to make sure that your pitch letter that you're sending to, the people who need the house sitter is answering the questions that they're automatically going to have in their head. So I have a house sitting master class where we'll just walk you through it. So you'll get your first house sit from joining the site to getting your first interview to getting booked and you can find that at house it dot vicarious dot com.
Danielle Desir Corbett: Excellent. And I will have all the links that Stephanie mentioned in the show notes, Stephanie, this was amazing and I feel like I'm always inspired to go just one step closer to living, you know, a different lifestyle do it, you'll love it. Thank you so much Stephanie now let everyone know how we can connect with you online and any new projects you have coming up. I am everywhere at vicarious. So you can find me on instagram, facebook twitter at vicarious. My Youtube channel is I just had a youtube baby. My youtube channel launched in june And so the best stuff is on Youtube. So my best stuff is on Youtube and you can find me youtube dot com slash Stephanie Perry. And then my blog which I never really talked about, my blog is vaycarious.com. So if you want to read instead of watching the Youtube videos come on over to vaycarious.com.
What is an adult gap year?
A gap year is traditionally when college students take a break to explore the world before returning to college. However, grown-ups are taking adult gap years, extended time off to see the world, recover from burnout, pursue their passions, and live abroad.
Adults in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond are choosing to go on an adult gap year, traveling for a few months up to several years. Also referred to as a “sabbatical” or “grown-up gap year”, take time off to relax, travel, or volunteer.
Do you have to quit your job to take a career break?
No, some people can take a leave of absence; check with your employer.
Steps For Planning an Adult Gap Year
Stephanie recommends answering (3) important questions when planning a grown up gap year.
- Why do you want to take a year off?
- What sort of activities would you like to do?
- What locations do you want to visit?
- Remember, your location determines your budget.
Helpful Tip: Set a firm date for starting your big adventure. Once you pick a date, work backward from there to determine your savings strategy.
Continue reading to learn more about Stephanie’s story.
The spark of inspiration
Stephanie’s mom had just retired when they went on vacation to Southern California.
While Stephanie’s mom was healthy, she noticed her mom struggling with age-related mobility issues. This prompted Stephanie to realize that working until 65+ and traveling after retirement didn’t make sense.
Stephanie says, “waiting until retirement to travel is a scam. You don’t know how your body will feel at that time or if you’ll have the energy. Take time off to travel while you’re able to.”
When Stephanie returned home, she decided she wanted to travel extensively. The plan was for her to take a career break, travel for one year then return to work.
She saved up $14,000 in 15 months before heading to Thailand in 2015.
Some other factors that encouraged Stephanie to take an adult gap year included:
- Job security
- Wanting more flexibility and control over her life
Stephanie Perry: I had many things happen to me that told me this is the perfect time to travel.
1. I went on a vacation for my 40th birthday to Brazil during the World Cup. I met younger people who worked, quit their jobs, traveled, and then, when they ran out of money, just went back to work again.
2. I’m a certified hospital pharmacy technician. I’m trained by the U.S. Army, and I can get a job at the drop of a hat.
3. I was tired of asking my job for vacation time.
When I asked for a week of vacation, they approved me for three days.
I had to find someone to cover me or call in sick and take an occurrence. Having limited time off was frustrating.
4. Putting off this big trip would be a big mistake. It would be something I would regret later on, and I just didn’t want to keep dreaming about it.
Once I figured out my plan, it all fell into place even faster than I expected.
Getting family onboard
While Stephanie’s dad was initially on board with her quitting her job to travel for one year, her mom was convinced this was a bad idea.
Stephanie Perry: When you want to do something that’s different from the norm, you have to either convince your family or let them see your dreams unfold.
While it wasn’t easy to convince my family and friends while I was planning, they could see how incredible this experience was once I left. They could see my pictures in Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines.
If I had tried to convince people, I would still be waiting.
Funding a gap year for grown-ups
Stephanie paid off $8,000 in credit card debt the year before working on this plan. She was familiar with her budget and determined which categories she could cut back on to save for this trip.
Stephanie reduced her expenses and allocated those savings to her travel fund. Saving became her top priority, and she was willing to make sacrifices.
Listen to this podcast episode:
Stephanie Perry: Another part was working overtime and selling stuff around the house. Originally my plan was to rent out my extra bedroom, but that never happened. I did a lot of overtime instead. A good chunk of my trip was paid for by working overtime hours.
I also opened a separate bank account. Any time I had a chunk of money to put into that bank account, I moved it into my travel fund.
Keeping it simple, I used a whiteboard to keep track of my savings.
If you still need to save the cash to go on a career break, watch this video.
Read budget travel books such as:
- Travel the World on $50 a Day
- Travel the World Without Worries
- Big Travel Small Budget
- Affording Travel
Grown-up gap years vs. vacation spending
People often think that long-term travel is as expensive as a week-long vacation, but that is not true.
Stephanie Perry: There’s a big mindset difference between going on vacation and slow travel. When you go on vacation, you plan to spend a significant amount of money in a couple of days.
With long-term travel spending, you need to stick to your travel budget. Going over budget has real consequences, like cutting your trip short.
Pace your spending. Every dollar spent too early means having to go back home sooner.
Ways to save money on long-term travel
When looking for long-term stays, you can find discounted guesthouses, Airbnb rentals, and hostels.
Stephanie Perry: I also saved money by volunteering in exchange for free room and board. I volunteered at a farm in Cambodia, and in Australia, I worked as a part-time au pair.
Creating a gap year travel itinerary
Stephanie Perry: Numbeo is one of my favorite sites for researching costs in different travel destinations. Type in any city and compare prices.
How much does a cup of coffee cost? How much for a taxi ride vs. public transportation?
Budget travelers spend roughly $40 a day. With some quick math, $40 per day x $365 days equals $14,600, which became my target goal.
Forty dollars a day included activities, accommodation, food, and transportation. In Southeast Asia, on average, I spent $16 per day on accommodation, $10 daily on food, and the rest on activities.
Other costs included flights which I paid for before I quit my job.
Best destinations for gap year travel
To stretch her travel budget, Stephanie prioritized low-cost-of-living destinations in South East Asia, like:
- The Philippines
These destinations had good weather, fantastic food, and an established expat community.
However, she visited more expensive countries like Australia and France too.
Facing the fear and going anyway
Stephanie had (2) big fears before she left for her career break.
She feared running out of money and not enjoying the nomadic lifestyle.
The first fear came true when she came home flat broke, with only $30 to her name.
And while some days, she felt exhausted from making so many decisions on the road, traveling as a nomad was exhilarating.
When planning a sabbatical, you will feel fearful, but you can choose to do it anyway. Some of the things Stephanie was afraid of happened, while others did not, but they were nowhere near as bad as she initially thought.
Remember, being afraid is normal, but it’s not a good enough excuse to miss out on your dreams.
Helpful Resources Mentioned
- Numbeo is the largest database for cost of living, housing indicators, health care, traffic, crime and pollution worldwide.
- Trusted Housesitters will help you search for homes to sit.
- Workaway will help you find work opportunities in exchange for free food and accommodation.
- Learn how to stick to your budget and reach your financial goals with the Back to Budgeting Basics course.
- Allianz Travel Insurance and World Nomads are long-term international travel insurance options.
- Watch Stephanie’s Grown Up Gap Year: A to Z Series on YouTube.
If you see house sitting in your future, Stephanie can help you get your first booking. Sign up for House Sitter School and learn how to get FREE accommodation when you travel by becoming a house sitter.
Also, learn how to save for travel without sacrificing your other financial goals with my new book Affording Travel.
Connect with Stephanie Perry
YouTube: Stephanie Perry
Learn how to get FREE accommodation when you travel by becoming a house sitter with Stephanie’s free Masterclass House Sitter School.
If you sign up with Trusted Housesitters today, you could have a free place to stay for your next vacation!
Listen to the podcast on Spotify.
Episode To Listen To Next:
Saving $60,000 House Sitting With Brittnay Sharman – Episode 53
Moving Abroad After 30 With Frantzces Lys – Episode 22
Trade Stocks and Travel With Teri Ijeoma – Episode 7
Danielle Desir Corbett paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27, and has traveled to 27 countries, including her favorites, Iceland, China, and Bermuda. Go here to learn Danielle’s incredible story, from struggling financially and in debt to finding creative ways to earn more and live on her terms. Listen to The Thought Card Podcast, where Danielle shares how you can creatively travel more and build wealth regardless of your current financial situation. Reach out to Danielle by contacting: thethoughtcard (at) gmail (dot) com.